FOR the second straight year, the Winnipeg Jets' first-round draft pick will have a strong interaction with a former Jet.
This year, ninth overall pick Jacob Trouba, an 18-year-old defenceman, will come under the guidance former Winnipeg star Phil Housley.
Housley, who spent three of his best NHL seasons in Winnipeg, will be Trouba's coach at this winter's world junior championship in Russia.
Team USA is conducting a summer evaluation camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., this week, where the two are getting acquainted.
"I got to watch him in the world (junior) championships and the under-18, and I think he's emerged as a very strong player," Housley told the Free Press Thursday. "He's got a good shot to go with some offensive talent and most importantly, he's good at puck movement.
"And that's going to be very important for us, because we're on the big sheet of ice and we're going to need guys who can get the puck up ice quickly instead of guys who skate it into trouble. I like so many things about his game."
Trouba had a goal and an assist in Team USA's 10-2 win over Sweden at the camp Thursday. The Rochester, Mich., native will attend the University of Michigan this fall.
Housley, now 48, said it's been challenging getting up to speed with so many players ahead of his biggest coaching engagement yet at the world junior. He's a high school coach near his Minnesota home.
"Really, we've had only one solid practice with the smaller group this week," Housley said.
Did Housley see himself as a coach?
"I was thinking about retiring in 2003 when Lou Vairo called me and asked me to help with the under-18 team," Housley said. "After that, I had made my decision. Coaching was going to be a way to stay close to the action and emotion of the game. And I really liked the interaction with the kids.
Of Housley's 22 NHL seasons (1,495 games, 1,232 points), three of his best were spent with the Jets between 1990 and 1993. His personal-best year was the magical 1992-93 season, when he clicked for 97 points.
That's all still fresh in his mind and Housley said the NHL's return to Winnipeg has more than excited him.
"I just knew it was going to be a good idea and that the fans would support them there. When I played there, the fans were just awesome. It's such a great community."